Retired defence forces officers and other ranks have great amount of resentment and indignation, if not outright anger, against the government’s niggardliness on the matter of ‘one rank, one pension’, that is, one uniform scale of pension for a particular rank of officers (or other ranks) whether they retired last month or thirty years ago. Today, the situation is that an officer who had retired some years back gets a pension much lower than his counterpart of the same rank retiring now. This is iniquitous because both the officers rendered the same kind of service to the nation. Not able to tolerate this any more, twenty thousand retired soldiers have returned their service medals to the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, the president of
However, in their deep hurt the ex-soldiers forget that there are millions of non-IAS civilian government and public retirees who are in the same boat as they, their levels of pension also depend on when they retired; the earlier they did the lesser pension they get. It is unfortunate and against elementary logic because the older retirees, ex-soldiers or civilians, are more susceptible to disease and infirmity and, therefore, need higher regular income, in the form of pension, to be able to pay for their treatment than their younger counterparts. The older people also suffer from another handicap – their non-pension retrial benefits like provident fund even if invested in interest-earning bank deposits have smaller current values than such benefits to the people retiring now.
If the government thinks the current agitation by ex-soldiers is a passing phase, it is fooling none other than itself. There is a real chance, on the other hand, that millions of the non-IAS civilian retirees will join the ex-soldiers in demanding one pension for one rank. Before that happens and it becomes impossible for the government to hold its present position, it should, in good grace, rationalise the things across the board by raising pensions of the old retirees of a particular rank, ex-soldier or not, to the level of the pension of those of the same rank retiring presently. No doubt, this will result into an extra burden on the exchequer, presently, say, of Rupees thirty thousand crore, but it will be a burden worth bearing in the interest of equity and justice and welfare of the people who had given the best years of their lives to the service of the nation. This gesture on the part of the government will be appreciated by the serving officers and other ranks, military and civil, because ultimately they would retire and then be benefited by ‘one rank, one pay’.
After instituting ‘one rank, one pension’, the government can reduce its incremental outgo of funds on account of paying salaries and pensions by lowering slabs of dearness allowance, for instance, instead of fully compensating the retired and serving personnel for inflation the government could compensate them for only 50% of inflation. This could save the government about ten thousand crore rupees in the first year and larger and larger amounts in subsequent years. And the serving and retired employees would accept this because it would be absolutely non-discriminatory. Moreover, the government employees, serving or retired, military or civilian, do understand and appreciate the fact that more than ninety per cent population of this country is outside the government or the organized sector and they have no one to compensate them by even 1% of the level of inflation.